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Quick Thoughts: Swedish Spring in St. Louis, Sharks Win 2-1 Shootout

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Credit: NBCS Bay Area

Hope springs eternal in St. Louis?

Three things that the San Jose Sharks were counting on this season — Erik Karlsson’s return to dominance, a more impactful bottom-six, and a stouter team defense — earned the Sharks a 2-1 shootout victory over the Blues on Wednesday. This salvaged a series split for San Jose.

I’ll talk more about Karlsson and Marcus Sorensen here, get to the team defense in my “Winning Play” later.

No matter what happens to the Sharks this year, for at least one night, Doug Wilson and Bob Boughner’s blueprint for success came to life.

The question, of course: Was this showing “one night only”?

Swedish Spring

In Sweden, Valborg is a celebration of the coming of spring. It’s marked by a community bonfire, traditionally thought to ward off evil spirits.

For Swedes Karlsson and Sorensen, their 2019-20 campaigns got them the evil eye from many a San Jose Sharks fan.

Coming off May 2019 groin surgery, Karlsson never looked quite the two-time Norris Trophy winner. Meanwhile, Sorensen appeared snake-bitten all season, scoring just seven goals after a breakout 2018-19.

Consider last night a cleanse.

“Best he’s looked so far this season,” Boughner said of Karlsson. “He looked like he had his legs tonight. He had a lot more jump in his step.”

The San Jose Sharks bench boss continued: “He was sort of the quarterback of a lot of our exits out of the d-zone, hitting guys with speed.”

Just call Karlsson Lamar Jackson.

Per SPORTLOGiQ, in All Situations, Karlsson led all skaters with 16 Controlled Exits (meaning he skated the puck out of the defensive zone by himself) — the closest Shark was Brent Burns (13), the closest Blues were Brayden Schenn and Justin Faulk (10). And he led all Sharks with five Completed Stretch Passes (six other Sharks each had one).

This wasn’t just a defensive zone thing either. He also led all skaters with 1:16 in Offensive Zone Possession Time — Ryan O’Reilly was next closest at 00:59. If it seemed like the puck was following Karlsson on a string at times, you weren’t wrong.

Of course, winning hockey isn’t just about the superstars.

“I believe the third and fourth lines created some of our best o-zone shifts tonight,” Boughner said, “when we needed it.”

The star of this show was Sorensen, who beat Torey Krug not once, but twice on this shift, to tie the game:

It was perfect timing: Sorensen (20) explodes on the puck just as the Mario Ferraro (38) shot arrives. And while Krug (47) is deceptively strong, Sorensen’s hunger wins the day.

There’s a lot of complaining about Sorensen’s hands, but you have to take a player for who he is — Sorensen isn’t Logan Couture. As long as he’s getting a lot of chances — and along the way, pushing the pace with his speed, providing energy, and killing penalties — he’s very valuable. A goal here and there is a bonus.

Back to Boughner’s point about Dylan Gambrell and Patrick Marleau’s lines excelling in the offensive zone, Sorensen actually tied for the team lead (with Timo Meier) with two Scoring Chances Off the Rush, all situations. Two doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but that’s a quarter of San Jose’s total output, compared to seven for St. Louis.

That figure also doesn’t include his goal — so all in all, it was a pretty fly night for a fourth-line guy.

For Sorensen and the rest of the San Jose Sharks’ bottom-six, the question is, can they push the play like this on a consistent basis? If they can provide a solid group of top-six forwards some regular support…

Similar question for Karlsson: Can he return to dominating on a nightly basis? If he can, he can transform the entire team…

If so, the San Jose Sharks may play deeper into the spring than most expect.

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Alaskan_ice

There was a noticeable shift in this game. Using your “Spring” thoughts, blossoms started to show.
As the lines start gelling, we should see better games from start to finish. On to Minnesota!!

Go Sharks!!

Gary To

Karlsson seems to be having the puck a lot more this early season. Whether he makes the right or wrong play with it, and it’s been inconsistent so far. Some of those maneuvers last night like the little gif you posted was so sweet, almost like those two dominant months he had couple seasons ago, gotta keep this up!

Alaskan_ice

As in the gif you posted, that push through 2 players to gain the zone was a testament to his vision and his strength. Good stuff.

Zeke

Yeah, but he also decided to try and outskate 2 defenders when literally every one of his teammates had open ice around them. And the reward was to exit with three Blues defenders all in position to defend against three Sharks skaters. Yes, this was a pretty cool move. But a much easier play accomplishes the same thing.

Alaskan_ice

Another thought in that play. When he does it, the opposition has to take that into account. The next play may bring them towards him and he can move the puck.
Remember that series winning goal by Goodrow. Karlsson had players focused on him and he moved the puck. That’s what made it work.

zachg

This is the blueprint for success. Hopefully they can build on it.

[…] Erik Karlsson has his legs again. Uh oh, West Division. They beat St. Louis 2-1. Here’s Sheng’s snag analysis (San Jose Hockey Now) […]

joe

I admit I have been a critic of EK 65. I hope this is the beginning of his return to consistent solid play. He looked really good last night. So close to a goal. My main reasons for the harsh criticism is how much of our future we gave away in the trade and the ridiculous contract. I think Wilson gave away too many assets regardless of his play. It was nice to see him show emotion out there also. I still don’t think we will ever be the winner of that trade. Solid game and Jones looked great. Wish… Read more »

[…] Wednesday, Karlsson reminded us how great he can be; tonight, Burns did the […]

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